332. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Henry Bradsher (Washington Star-News)
  • John Wallach (Hearst Newspapers)
  • Bruce Van Voorst (Newsweek)
  • Henry Trewhitt (Baltimore Sun)
  • Richard Growald (UPI)
  • Kenneth Freed (A/P)
  • Stanley Carter (N.Y. Daily News)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The Secretary proposed that this be off-the-record, but it was agreed that it be deep background. The correspondents could use what was discussed but without attribution to any U.S. official.]

Kissinger: What the hell has got into the press corps that 20 years later they are back to the John Foster Dulles policy? [Laughter] If they are against recognizing frontiers, what frontiers are they for changing?

When the President can visit Eastern Europe and I can have bilateral meetings with Eastern European leaders, the case can be made that we are giving them more flexibility. I am not saying this is the greatest conference in the history of mankind.

[Page 970]

Van Voorst: Isn’t this the result of a new look at détente, with the Solzhenitsyn thing?

Wallach: It’s a rebound from Solzhenitsyn.

Growald: It’s a chance to beat you over the head on.

Kissinger: Me, or the Administration?

Growald: Both.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Bradsher: I’d like to change the subject. Everybody says now they are for MBFR. You said we need a political decision. Is it really ready?

Kissinger: It needs a political decision to move forward. Everyone starts with an absurd position to satisfy their own hardliners. We start with a position just to start it. We have no problem on our side, in the United States. The problem is the allies.

Wallach: Will the Germans want it?

Kissinger: Bill Safire says we’ve been screwed because we didn’t get MBFR.2 I’m not so certain MBFR is unambiguously good for us. All we get is a ceiling on all forces in Germany. The Russians get a limitation only in Europe.

Bradsher: The Germans are against it.

Kissinger: The Germans will hold their noses but what they want is to keep the remaining American forces there.

Freed: Where is the momentum for it?

Kissinger: In Congress.

Wallach: It was a response to the Mansfield Amendment.

Kissinger: A response to the Mansfield Amendment. MBFR isn’t something to which we needed to link CSCE.

Trewhitt: It would put the U.S. at an enormous disadvantage.

Kissinger: What the cold warriors have to realize is that if they want to do it, they’ll have to double the defense budget. It would start with great glory, but then it would be like Vietnam.

[Page 971]

Wallach: Is there any concern on Berlin? It seems to have gotten great emphasis.

Kissinger: There is concern that after CSCE, there might be pressure. But there is no evidence.

Growald: It has been said you opposed going to Auschwitz, because it would offend the Germans.3

Kissinger: I’m going to throw up.

I have personal reasons to go. On Solzhenitsyn, I never spoke to the President about Solzhenitsyn except to give him the Gulag Archipelago when he came into office. On this trip I checked a box when it came around to give my approval or disapproval.4 I never spoke to him.

Growald: That’s why I asked the question. It’s the same old stories.

Van Voorst: Add Berlin to that. They say you didn’t want the President to go.

Kissinger: The Germans didn’t want him to go. There was fear of the Baader Meinhof gang. We wanted to go. But with sharpshooters there…

Freed: Why did the President go to Auschwitz?5

Kissinger: How can he go to Krakow without going to Auschwitz?

Freed: They said it was public relations, which offended me.

Kissinger: To lay a wreath on the memorial was the only thing he could do.

Freed: They said it was to pick up support at home. That sickened me.

Kissinger: Why shouldn’t he go? There was discussion of whether to go to the museum—the question was whether he had to go see the teeth and the ghoul.

I had a reason to be moved. I think he did it right. To do more would have been like PR.

It was not a foreign policy question.

Bradsher: You are aware that the Poles never mentioned the Jews in their presentation?

Growald: That is a standard policy with the Poles.

Kissinger: I didn’t know that.

[Page 972]

Bradsher: It’s domestic politics in Poland.

Carter: Why go to East Europe?

Kissinger: To show that we do not recognize, within the military realities, Soviet predominance in East Europe. By the time we leave, the President and I will have seen every East European leader.

Wallach: The Yugoslavs say the last time you discussed spare parts and T–28’s. But they can’t get it.

Kissinger: I’ve read that New York Times story.6 It must be true. I’m going to look into it.

Wallach: Is Schlesinger opposed to it?

Kissinger: No. If he is, he hasn’t told me.

Growald: Why do you want the President to go to Yugoslavia?7 Because Tito is coming to an end?

Kissinger: You say, “Why do you want the President to go?” It is conceivable that the President does something on his own.

Growald: You approved it. Kissinger: Because Tito is coming to an end. It is important for the U.S. to stake something on the independence of Yugoslavia in the post-Tito period.

Bradsher: You didn’t see all of them here?

Kissinger: Because we want to make a distinction between certain East European countries.

Bradsher: The President won’t see Husak.

Kissinger: But I saw his Foreign Minister.8

Bradsher: That is one of the distinctions.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 273, Memoranda of Conversation, Chronological File. Confidential. Drafted by Rodman. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Suite at the Hesperia Hotel. Brackets, with the exception of those indicating omission of unrelated material, are in the original.
  2. Safire wrote in an editorial entitled “Super Yalta”: “The criterion that r. Kissinger most wants to get away from is the actual quid pro quo promised us by the Soviets in return for holding a supersummit so valuable to their interests. Its name is ‘MBFR’—mutual and balanced force reduction—and it is the forgotten topic at Helsinki. Two years ago, we agreed to begin meeting the Soviets in preparation for the conference they wanted in return for an agreement to prepare for a deal we wanted: the actual reduction of Soviet and American troops in Europe. The security-conference talks led to this week’s glorious conclusion; the troop reduction talks led nowhere. We were had. Now, of course, our Secretary of State insists that while the two subjects started together, progress on the one was not connected to progress on the other. In other words, bad faith on their part was to be matched by good faith on our own.” (New York Times, July 28, 1975, p. 21)
  3. See Document 319
  4. The memorandum to which Kissinger refers was not found.
  5. On July 29, Ford visited the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz, in Oswiecim, Poland, where he laid a wreath at the International Monument and signed the Memorial Book.
  6. Kissinger is apparently referring to the article by Malcolm W. Browne, “Hope Dims for Arms Sales to Belgrade,” New York Times, July 26, 1975, p. 2.
  7. President Ford visited Yugoslavia August 3–4. See Document 337.
  8. Telegram Secto 8089 from Helsinki to Prague, July 31, reported on the meeting: “In half-hour meeting on July 31, Secretary told Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Chnoupek that we are in favor of improving our relations both within and outside the trade areas. He expressed regret for the provisions of the trade act affecting Czechoslovakia and said we have to see if we can negotiate a package with Congress and then present it to Czechoslovakia. Chnoupek expressed appreciation for President’s and Secretary’s personal attitude in calling on Congress to reevaluate aspects of the trade act.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)